Simple Gifts


max_icon.gif reena_icon.gif

Scene Title Simple Gifts
Synopsis Sometimes they're the best kind.
Date February 24,2019

New Hope Church

Outside the church, a horse drawn cart pulls to a stop. Reena dismounts and ties her horse to a post. In the cart, rabbits hang from cross bars, tied up by their feet. She leaves them there, though, as she approaches the doors. Even inside, she tightens her coat around her as she knocks against the door frame.

"Preacher?" she calls out. Which is rare. Reena tends to avoid the church part of the church when she can.

The doors, at least, have been fixed up — put back on their hinges and repainted, in other words, though the church isn’t totally up to where Max might like it to be. It’s decent, and certainly not dangerous to be inside, but there’s a lot of work left to be done.

Max does seem to be doing some of it, because when one of those doors opens to Reena’s call, he’s got a bit of dirt on his face, and some paint that looks fresh on his hands. However, he doesn’t pay it any attention; instead, he smiles when he sees who it is. “Well, hey,” he says. “Branchin’ out?” His tone is teasing, though, rather than pointed. He opens the door wider so that she can come in if she wants, though he also keeps a foot out on the top step, so that if she beckons him outside he can easily come, leaving it up to her. “Or just come to check if I’m still breathin’? I ain’t dead yet, promise.”

"No," Reena says, because heaven forbid she branch out. Especially in this direction. "I have a little more than we can use at the farm," she says, pointing her thumb over her shoulder, "I thought you could use it for your flock." It's a joke, although it's hard to tell by her tone. "Rabbits," she adds, as if this wasn't obvious. They're skinned but lucky (?) it's cold enough to keep them without spoiling.

His words get something like a smile, a gentle curve at the corner of her lips. "Still on the right side of the dirt, huh? Always good news. Hate to lose what little entertainment we have around here."

Max’s eyes shift to where the cart is, and his smile widens when he sees the cargo — and when she says it, of course. Both those things. “Thank you, ma’am,” he replies as he looks back to her. “That’s real nice of you. I sure can use it.” He steps out of the door then, letting it close behind him, since he assumes she’s not going to come in at the moment.

He lets out a laugh at her next words, reaching up to rub the back of his hand across his forehead, which makes some of the dust that had been there smears a little bit. “Good to know I’m useful somehow,” he says, and this time his tone is a little bit more dry, though still good-natured. He starts down the steps then, presumably to unload the unexpected gift.

"Ma'am makes me feel like an old woman. Just Reena." She lets out a sigh as if it's just so hard to deal with his insistence on being polite. But her expression softens when he laughs. And when he smears dust across his face, she laughs quietly under her breath. "Well, I live to reassure you," she comments, giving him a sidelong looks as she follows him to her cart.

"My farmhands got into a hunting competition. Bad for the rabbits. Good for the community, though." She picks up a few poles, resting them against her shoulder before she turns back toward him. "Lead the way." She's helping, apparently.

“I can’t help how I was raised,” Max says, but he says it with a little chuckle as he grabs a couple himself, resting it against his shoulder and starting in toward the church. Hopefully Reena won’t explode as soon as she enters. Oh wait, no, that’s just Finn, no worries.

“I feel like I ain’t seen you in an age,” he says as he starts toward the back where the offices once were, and now has been made into a makeshift walk-in cooler. Well, it’s cold enough, but there’s also some iceboxes there, and behind in the garden there’s a smokehouse as well. It’s a pretty good setup, all things considered. “How’ve you been? You see that city boy at all? The one with the metal arm?”

No, Reena seems to be able to remain in one piece as she enters the church. There's not even a hiss for stepping on holy land. Maybe his church just isn't as pure as he thought.

Or maybe she's not a vampire after all. It's possible.

"I've been trying to get the farm through the winter," she says, which is no small job. Especially with as few people as they have around here. She shivers when she steps into the back room— probably from the cold, although who can say for sure— and sets the rabbits down. And then she straightens to give him a strange look. "I missed an extra cyborg. I thought there was only one of those allowed," she says, ending with a crooked smirk. "I've been out of the loop around here, it seems."

Please, Reena. Max’s church is super pure. Obviously. He sets his burdens down as well, just in time to receive that look from her, which makes him laugh. “Yeah,” he says, “I ain’t even familiar with all the details myself. Just that he got here somehow, and needed to get back to the city.”

He shakes his head as he leans a hand against one of the tables, “One of the oddest drives I ever went on. He had gold plating on the arm, and when Ollie said that it could feed a whole town, the kid just pried it off and dropped it in Ollie’s lap. I didn’t even have to say anythin’ about God at all.” This last is said with a wider smile of his own, probably indicating a joke, though not completely, since he does talk about God a lot.

"Sounds like someone who got hit in the head a few too many times," Reena says, cocking out a hip to prop her hand up on. "But if it means an easier winter around here, maybe you should take more city boys on odd drives."

Those last words get a light laugh and she reaches over to clap him on the arm. "You must have been so disappointed." She steps out of the meat locker, shaking off the extra cold and pulls her jacket tighter around her. "Next time, maybe they'll give you a chance to preach a little." She's not sure how many people around Providence let him, after all. Even on a Sunday.

Not too many, that’s for sure. But Max hasn’t given up! Obviously, since the church is slowly becoming nicer and nicer. “I was,” he replies. “I always like a good sermon.” He grins at her, before starting out of the makeshift freezer. He may be a preacher but he’s not a martyr.

“I’d take a hundred city boys on drives if it meant we’d get a pile of gold out of it,” he says as they walk out into the sanctuary. “I’m sure it’ll come in handy.” He bends down to pick up a stray nail from the floor from one of the various projects that have been going on, before he turns back to her. “You need anythin’ done over at your place?” he asks. “Feel like everyone’s been helpin’ me out and I ain’t been givin’ enough.”

"We're working on the equipment, if you have any talent with machinery," Reena says, because she's never one to turn help down. "Or I have Paul fixing the fences. That's a big job for one boy," she says turning to look his way, "if you'd rather work with your hands. Always something to be done." It's one of the things she likes about her work. There is very little downtime.

"Even just company would help. We all get tired of seeing just each other all the time. Some of them might even appreciate a sermon here and there." Of course, Reena isn't out doing the manual labor this time of year. For her it's budgets and planning crops and figuring out if she can feed all the mouths around the farm and still turn a profit. That comes with its own stress. She would rather be mending fences.

“I don’t,” Max admits, “but I wouldn’t mind learnin’. The fences, though, I can do. I don’t know if I’m good company, but I am some kinda company.” He grins as he picks up a couple more errant nails that have made their way around onto the floor. “I like Paul. He’s a good kid.”

He looks up at her then, studying her for a couple of seconds, before he continues, “Hope I’ll get you out of the office on Saturday.” Which is of course, the day that everyone will be out here fixing all the last things on the church. “Been holed up in there too long. It ain’t exactly the Sabbath day ‘cause we’ll be doin’ work, but hopefully it’s the kind of work that makes you happy to be doin’ it.”

"You're fine company," Reena says with a hint of a smile. "Come by anytime." Always work to be done, after all. She chuckles at his assessment of Paul, but nods, too. "He is. There's trouble lurking around in there, but this kind of work leaves you too tired for foolish stunts." It probably helps that he doesn't have other troublemakers around to encourage him. Not at her farm, anyway.

Her smile turns genuine when she looks over his way again. "I wouldn't miss it. And thanks for the excuse to get out. I'll— " A puzzled expression interrupts her words, followed by a more sheepish sounding laugh. "I was gonna say I'll owe you a beer. But, I don't even know if you drink. You allowed any fun, Preacher?"

“That’s the truth. Get some of those kids together an’ that’s when you see things happen that you ain’t gonna be happy about,” Max says with a chuckle. “Some of the youth groups I had in West Virginia were worse than anythin’ else, for all their parents tried to say they weren’t. That’s why I didn’t do any Bible camps.” We all know what happens at summer camps, even religious ones. Or perhaps especially, with no parents around.

The chuckle turns into an outright laugh at her last question, but it’s not at her, just genuinely amused, and perhaps with a little bit of understanding for why it was posed. “Oh, I’m allowed it,” he says. “A time to mourn and a time to dance, right?” Though maybe Reena is not familiar with that particular verse. “Then there’s First Corinthians. Whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. I don’t think He cares whether I have a beer now and then. I got some ready, in fact. You want one? Least I can do for you bringin’ this over.”

"Whoever thought a camp full of teenagers and no parents was a good idea, I'm not sure their head was on right." A handful of chaperones weren't gonna cut it. Reena shakes her head a little, disbelief in the level of naivety that must require.

His laugh brings her back around, her hands moving to her hips as if in offense, but the smile on her face gives her away. She may or may not recognize the verse, her smirk makes it hard to tell when she replies. "That's The Byrds, right?" Her head tilts when he goes on, an eyebrow lifting as if there were something suspect about these Corinthians. "Whatever you do?" she says, with complete innocence, of course. Nevermind that there's a tint of laughter in her words. "I'd love a beer." She waves a hand toward the door, where she came in, "Might see me around more often if bringing around some rabbits is enough for a few drinks." A few.

Max eyes her when she names the group, but the smile remains on his face and he nods, as though acknowledging a well-placed hit. After all, she’s not wrong. “That’s it,” he says, pointing at her as he does. “Now that’s a great song.” The smile widens a moment later, too, at the insinuation. Or not! Surely she wasn’t insinuating anything. “You could always tell when those same kids discovered Song of Solomon,” he replies. “They all got a lot more interested in carting their Bibles around all of a sudden.”

He heads back toward the pseudo-walk-in freezer, and when he returns he’s got two opened bottles, one in each hand. She did say ‘a few,’ but still, he doesn’t want to presume. “I always make sure to get some when we go down to the city,” he says as he brings one to her, keeping one for himself. “Guess the Southern ain’t got knocked out of me yet.”

Reena really couldn't say if his smile widened or if she insinuated anything, however she does follow when that train leads to that particular part of the Holy Book. "It really does cover everything, doesn't it?" She takes the beer with a nod of thanks and finds her way to a pew to sit. "Not a bad idea to stock up when we can. Morale is important in places like these," she notes, and that has her lapse back into a more serious tone, and a more serious expression. "We should do more like what you're doing here, having people pitch in. People feel a connection when they've put their own work into something. Makes building a community easier." And they don't have any government backing or big company helping them out. They're all they've got.

“It sure does.” Max goes to sit as well, in the same pew though not too close. Close enough for easy conversation. He takes a sip from the bottle, before leaning forward and resting his forearms on his knees with his hands between them holding the beer.

“It is,” he agrees as he looks at her, his head tipping just a little bit to the side. “I hope we can get more of that stuff goin’. I don’t mind doin’ most of it, though. I sorta got used to bein’ the morale booster around.” His smile shifts a little bit there, maybe a tiny bit self-deprecatingly, but it’s said matter-of-factly. That’s part of a preacher’s job, right?

There’s a brief pause, before he continues, “Why’d you come out here, originally?”

"Comes a bit with the territory, huh?" Even though she's not religious, she can appreciate the importance of the role he plays in a place like this. Takes a certain kind of person. She has to drink, though, when he asks his question. Both to give herself time to think about her reply and to hide her expression for a moment. So she can control it again.

"The war rolled over my family's farm. I landed on the east coast when it all ended, but I didn't… really want to go up to New York. Not really my speed. I know they say they're different than the last people in charge and maybe they mean it. For now. I don't know that I trust it, though." And she drinks again, longer this time before she looks back at him. "What about you?"

“Uh huh. That it does.” Max doesn’t say too much else on that subject, though, just listens, and he doesn’t hurry her along or anything like that when she takes a moment to compose herself. He also looks away toward the altar, so that his eyes aren’t on her during that moment. “Yeah,” he says once she’s through, and he nods once, “I get that. I ain’t too keen on stayin’ in the city, either.” Obviously, or he wouldn’t be here.

He smiles, though, when she reflects that question back at him. It’s small, a little nostalgic, but not too sad for now. “Well, pretty much the same story, really. War came, fought in it, then had to find a place that was still standin’. Weren’t a whole lot left down South after. Maybe it’s different now, but I ain’t been back. Can’t see myself goin’. Need to move forward, you know? Not stay stuck in the past.”

Reena looks over at him, his last words getting her to pause thoughtfully for a long moment. "Forward's the only thing we have," she says, although she sounds a bit like she is trying to convince herself. "I didn't go back home after we were done fighting, either. Nothing to see there, I expect." She looks down at her beer, turning it between her hands a little. "I guess we all pretty much have the same story." A sad truth about their times.

Sitting up, she looks over at him, taking a breath like she's shaking herself out of something. "What's— what do you need still? Around here? I can probably get some supplies together before the day. Since we're doing similar work at the farm."

“Guess so,” Max agrees, looking over at her again, just in time to meet her eyes as she brings herself from whatever she’d been picturing before. He doesn’t press her about it, though he does take a second to think about the question. “Some more paint,” he says, “and some nails. Think we’re gonna need a lot of those. Any tools you got handy, enough for everyone. If you got spackle or anything like that, I’d be grateful for it.”

He quiets then for just another moment, before adding, “You ever want to talk about anythin’, I’m available to listen. I know we ain’t that close so maybe that’s a little presumptuous, but I’m generally a pretty good listener. I can even leave the God out of it for you.” His lips pull up a little bit at that. “Or if you don’t want to talk, but you want some quiet. It’s pretty empty here generally, ‘cept on Sundays.” And there aren’t that many people here on Sundays either, let’s be real. “I won’t pry, but the offer’s there if you want it.

It's a kind offer, even Reena can see that. But it's easy to tell by her lingering silence that she's not going to take him up on it. Not today, anyway.

"I'll think about it," she says, choosing a gentler answer than she's particularly known for. Because she knows he means well. She just isn't ready to let go of some wounds just yet. Good listeners have a way of making that happen. "I'll get together what I can for the work day," she says as she stands to her feet, "and see you then for sure." If not before. It's a small town, after all.

Max just lets it go, and he nods. “Sure,” he says. “And thanks again. See you soon.” He lifts a hand as she stands, though he doesn’t get up just yet. He did, after all, say that it was a good place to be alone, and maybe he’d like to do some of that as well at the moment, considering what they’d been talking about. “Be safe,” he adds after a moment, watching her for a second or two more before his eyes turn back to the altar. It’s that kind of day.

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